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Aram Shelton: Everything for Somebody

Troy Collins By

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Currently based in Oakland, California, alto saxophonist Aram Shelton initially rose to prominence as a member of the fertile Chicago jazz scene, where he resided from 1999-2005. His tenure in the Windy City resulted in a number of lasting relationships; one of the most notable is his Quartet with tenor saxophonist Keefe Jackson, bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Tim Daisy. Featuring some of Chicago's finest young improvisers, Everything for Somebody is the group's sophomore release, following These Times, its 2010 Singlespeed Music debut.

Shelton's frequent visits to the Midwest have provided numerous opportunities to rehearse new material with his band mates before recording—as with this session. Their studied familiarity with Shelton's edgy aesthetic is revealed in lyrically sophisticated extrapolations that unfold as dramatic personalized narratives bolstered by textural and tonal abstractions. Together their singular variations yield a collective expression greater than the sum of its parts.

Although the influence of post-war innovators like Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy are obvious touchstones for Shelton's approach, he never resorts to slavish imitation. Bringing Shelton's engaging pieces to life, the Quartet's congenial accord is immediately evident in the buoyant set opener, "Anticipation," which features Jackson and Shelton alternating probing motifs underpinned by Hatwich and Daisy's fiendishly elastic, bop-inflected groove. Delving into vanguard territory, the saxophonists seamlessly modulate from scalar refrains to more subtly abstruse ruminations unbound by the constraints of conventional harmony—revealing a keen sensitivity to traditional foundations.

The swinging title track and infectious closer, "Fleeting," expand upon the accessible inside-outside territory explored in the opener, with the latter number featuring one of the leader's most exhilarating solos of the set—an intervallic excursion brimming with hairpin twists and turns. Shelton ups the ante on "Deadfall," his soulful alto harmonizing with Jackson's robust tenor before summoning a rousing collective chorus from the band. They invest the variable tempos and serpentine musings of the fractious "Barely Talking" with similarly expressionistic ardor, while the austere tone poem, "Joints and Tendons," provides subtle respite, its pointillist contours shaped by a series of introspective solo ruminations and conversational duets, unified by collective recapitulations of the theme.

Whether navigating the outer reaches of tonality or reinventing the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic possibilities of the venerable piano-less quartet, Shelton and company steadily advance the tradition forward on Everything for Somebody.

Track Listing: Anticipation; Everything For Somebody; Joints And Tendons:; Barely Talking: Deadfall; Fleeting.

Personnel: Aram Shelton: alto saxophone; Keefe Jackson: tenor saxophone; Anton Hatwich: bass; Tim Daisy: drums.

Title: Everything For Somebody | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Singlespeed Music


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